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The Female Force
Three local women discuss their inspiring work — both professionally and philanthropically.

BY GUY FIORITA
PHOTOS BY DAVID SZYMANSKI

Feb. 2018

Kathryn Poehling Seymour
Chief operating officer, First Supply, LLC —
Kitchen and Bath Stores

Kathryn Poehling Seymour is in Detroit again, overseeing the opening of First Supply’s 18th store.

She is the chief operating officer of First Supply’s kitchen and bath stores, which include Gerhard’s Kitchen and Bath Stores and the Kohler Signature Store by First Supply in Wauwatosa. With the new store opening in Detroit and stores to oversee in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Kansas, there is a lot to do, but Seymour remains calm.

You’d never know that 12 years ago she suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) — or what was then called sudden cardiac death, due to a cardiac arrest.

Seymour spent a week in the intensive care unit and eventually received an implanted cardiac defibrillator. Less than a year later, that implant would provide a life-saving shock after another sudden cardiac arrest. And two years ago, after receiving a new battery, Seymour ran half and full marathons, setting personal record times in each event. “I joke that I was just recharged,” she says.

The experience led her to become involved with the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Go Red for Women (GRFW), a group that aims to raise awareness for heart disease and stroke as the number one killer of women. “Thanks to the AHA, HCM and many other similar conditions are no longer silent killers. Now people can live full, active lives. By raising money for research and outreach, we can also help reduce preventable cardiac disease,” Seymour says. “GRFW educates women (and men) about things like sodium intake and dietary impacts of prevention, how to spot the signs of heart attack and stroke, and what to do if you experience them or see them in someone else. GRFW trained more than 19 million people in CPR in 2016 alone.”

Today Seymour serves on the executive leadership team for both the Milwaukee and La Crosse chapters of GRFW, and she is also part of Circle of Red, a group of engaged women donating time and resources to GRFW’s mission.

Seymour has enlisted First Supply in the cause, hosting events at stores, donating auction items to luncheons, and inviting vendors and customers to GRFW events. “A number of our First Supply and Gerhard’s managers and designers have joined their local GRFW organizations, serving on their executive leadership teams, passion committees, and in Circle of Red. And I have a wonderful, supportive husband, a great boss (my dad), and a family who is also involved in AHA activities,” she says. “My mom even founded the Circle of Red in La Crosse. Plus, healthy eating and exercise are great stress relievers.”

Incorporating volunteerism into her professional work is all part of Seymour’s heritage. First Supply, a company her family has owned for 120 years, has been involved in philanthropy since its founding. Seymour serves on the state support organization’s board of directors for Habitat for Humanity of Wisconsin, and First Supply donates plumbing fixtures and furnaces to homes in need throughout the state each year. The company also contributes to the United Way, and has even sent a number of veterans to Operation Rise and Conquer, an adaptive sports experience in Colorado for veterans who have lost at least one limb in the line of duty.

What is the one message she’d like women in Milwaukee and beyond to hear? “Take care of yourself and each other. You can make a difference,” Seymour stresses. “By taking action to improve your own health, you set an example to everyone around you about how important it is to eat right, exercise, sleep well, and manage stress. By talking about heart health to someone you’re worried about, you educate your family, your workplace and your community. Heart disease kills one woman every 80 seconds, causing one in three women’s deaths each year. Imagine if you could impact just one of those people. And don’t forget to wear red on Feb. 2. You too can be part of the movement.”

Leann Boucha
Behavior department manager,
Humane Animal Welfare Society

As far back as she can remember, Leann Boucha wanted to work with animals. “I planned to be a killer whale trainer at Sea World from the moment my parents first took me to Orlando, when I was in fifth grade,” she remembers.

And Boucha remained true to that very goal until her junior year of college, when an internship with the Humane Animal Welfare Society (HAWS) brought her to work being done with companion animals, specifically dogs and cats.

At the time, Boucha was a junior at Carroll University working toward her bachelor’s degree in biology, with an emphasis on animal behavior, and a minor in psychology. Her internship with HAWS continued through her senior year and even led to a part-time job with the organization. Nearly six years later, Boucha is not only still at HAWS, but has advanced from dog walker to managing the behavior department. It is a rewarding job — and one that includes overseeing the Mod Squad program, a group of volunteers who works with shelter dogs on behavior modification and training. “The squad works on all sorts of problem behaviors to enhance the pets’ adoptability and increase the chance of finding them a good home,” Boucha explains.

Boucha also developed and launched HAWS’s Kitty College program. “My former boss asked me to create a class geared toward cats or kittens,” she says. “Honestly, at first I was worried because cats are so different than dogs. I knew better than to expect that I could bring together adult cats in an unfamiliar environment to socialize with one another. (That was) not realistic.”

So Boucha  sdeveloped socialization and behavioral classes that specifically cater to kittens. “Kittens have a critical socialization period, just as puppies do, during which they are more flexible in their tolerance to change and novelty, including other animals,” she explains. “The class meets once a week for three weeks, and there can be up to seven kittens per class. My goal is to help the kittens turn into well-rounded and happy adult cats.” 

Boucha is proud of the all of the work being done at HAWS — much of which, she says, goes unnoticed. “There is so much that goes on behind the scenes at HAWS. My co-workers are all extremely dedicated to our mission, and I think that is very clear when you walk into our shelter,” she adds. “Everyone has the animals’ best interests in mind. Most people don’t realize we are a full-service shelter. Not only can you adopt pets from us or relinquish a pet during a time of need, but we also take in strays and injured wildlife from all over Waukesha County. Additionally, we offer education and behavior seminars, teach a variety of positive reinforcement dog training classes, and offer camps for children during summer and winter. I am honored to work in a shelter with so many resources geared toward improving the lives of animals in our community and beyond.”

Cheryle Rebholz
Owner and founder, Bear Arms Boutique Indoor Shooting Range

A skincare salon and shooting range in one? It certainly doesn’t sound like a normal business fit, but owner Cheryle Rebholz is not the typical business owner. An entrepreneur for her entire adult life, Rebholz launched a private label cosmetic business in 1979 called Faces, when she was only 19 years old. Thirty-eight years later, Faces is still thriving.

Now Rebholz is about to launch a new venture — Bear Arms Boutique Indoor Shooting Range. Her idea is to combine her skincare business with a new shooting range, servicing the Mequon area. The obvious question is, How do you merge these two very different, completely unrelated services in one space? When asked, Rebholz says the vision is clear. “I will be bringing my Faces II Esthetic Salon private label cosmetics and skincare with me, butI have expanded the line to include men’s skincare, beard grooming, (and) nail and body care,” she says.

Picture this: You enter the boutique. On one shelf you can buy an eyelash serum, and 3 feet away is a full-service firearm pro shop, where you can purchase bullets, targets or a gun safe. “It’s like a smaller version of Cabela’s, but with unisex spa decor,” says Rebholz. “There will also be a private makeup treatment room. The sexes will be crossing over into each other’s domain, and we are all going to anti-age together and look great while perfecting our personal safety. I like to call it a fusion of beauty and bullets.”

Another factor that differentiates Bear Arms is the fact that it’s owned by a woman. “Yes, this is a male dominated industry, but women are the fastest-growing segment of the market. I think it’s time that is recognized, and I want to help,” Rebholz says. “Having said that, my experience dealing with the majority of male vendors has been a positive.”

Aside from skincare and shooting, Rebholz says Bear Arms will also encompass education, recreation and entertainment. “We will offer a range of classes for CPR, personal self-defense classes and firearm safety training,” she adds. “It will not look, smell or feel like a range. When you step in, you won’t even know there is a range at all due to the design, which fuses my spa world into the floor plan.”

At present, the range is being built in Utah and will include a 25-yard, fully contained pistol/rifle range with eight lanes. Once completed, it will be put on trucks, driven to Wisconsin, and assembled on site. Early indications are that the range will be a success. Rebholz has already sold all of her charter memberships and hopes to debut her new business in the first quarter of 2018.

This story ran in the Feb. 2018 issue of: